Fear of sexual harassment, gender-based assault, and domestic violence are an unfortunate daily reality for the female refugee population. The housing tents in the camps on Chios provide little privacy and single men are often assigned to tents with non-relative families. Women must walk in groups or with a male relative in order to use the bathroom or hygiene facilities because it is not uncommon for strange men to follow them. Despite repeated reports to relevant authorities, many of the facilities have broken locks and/or doors. Though the camps have gender-specific facilities, men frequently use the women’s bathrooms, even when women are present. Issues related to alcohol and fights in the camp contribute further to the unsafe environment.
Women are hesitant to formally file complaints of domestic violence because it means reporting their own family members. Anecdotally, however, incidents are on the rise as men within the camps struggle with the challenges of feeling emasculated while waiting, unemployed, for asylum processing. Unfortunately, this frustration is often expressed as violence toward the women and children in their families. Additionally, it is not uncommon for women to have been abused by smugglers or other authority figures along their journeys.
Though these issues have persisted for years, the police and judicial systems in Greece lack either the resources or will to make effective changes that will better protect female refugees.
AfS launched the #MakeItSafe campaign in November 2016 to draw attention to these issues, asking women to share concerns for their privacy and personal safety. The campaign aims to be their voices from the camps in Greece, namely Chios, such as the following:
AfS also sells wristbands to promote the campaign and fund the Athena Centre for Women on Chios, a safe space and education facility for women.
We are continuing our campaign in 2017 to promote awareness and support women’s rights and safety. Follow our campaign on Facebook for new stories.